With just one year and nine months left until the scheduled opening of the 2025 Osaka Expo, not a single country has submitted an application to begin construction of their pavilions, raising concerns about the event’s readiness. Local officials in Osaka are now urging Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government to take more decisive action to meet the tight completion schedule.
During a news briefing, Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura acknowledged the problem and emphasized the need for the central government to do more. He expressed awareness of the challenges related to construction materials, scheduling, and other factors, and revealed his efforts to convey these concerns to Prime Minister Kishida and relevant government officials in Tokyo.
Yoshimura’s visit to Tokyo aimed to encourage closer collaboration between the central government, the construction industry, and the expo authorities to expedite construction approvals for pavilions. The governor emphasized the increasingly tight schedule for construction and the need for swift action.
Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura responded to the absence of any pavilion applications by stating that the central government was actively working with expo authorities, construction firms, and involved countries to accelerate building procedures. The goal is to ensure the completion of pavilions in time for the expo’s opening in April 2025. The expo is set to conclude on October 13 of the same year.
The primary concern revolves around the 50 Type A pavilions, which are to be constructed by individual countries in collaboration with Japanese construction firms. These pavilions come in three different sizes: 15 with an area of 3,500 square meters, 10 with an area of 1,750 square meters, and 25 with an area of 900 square meters. Notable countries expected to build Type A pavilions include the United States, Germany, and the Netherlands.
Originally, the land for constructing the pavilions was scheduled to be handed over to the tenants in April of this year, followed by the commencement of construction after obtaining necessary permits, a process typically taking around three months.
According to current guidelines, the construction of Type A pavilions, excluding interior work, should be completed by July 2024. However, the construction industry is facing challenges such as increased costs of imported materials due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as difficulties in finding sufficient labor. Construction companies are grappling with rising costs and uncertainties surrounding imported materials. Additionally, two labor law-related changes coming into effect next year, particularly the cap on overtime limits in April 2024, further compound concerns over increased labor costs.
Yuji Yoshitomi, an Osaka-based freelance journalist specializing in the city’s finances, attributes the lack of permit applications for the overseas pavilions to a fundamental lack of preparation. He suggests that while business leaders in the Kansai region expressed concerns about rising construction costs since early 2022, officials failed to adequately prepare for the impact on applications to build the pavilions. Yoshitomi highlights a lack of foresight on the part of expo officials, the Osaka prefectural government, and municipal authorities.
As time continues to tick away, urgent action is needed to address the challenges and ensure the timely completion of the overseas pavilions for the much-anticipated Osaka Expo.